A whale shark spotted by DSDC members Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: For 51-year-old British expat Petra Walker, the underwater is her “happy place”. It is where she goes to, or rather dives to, every weekend to find “calm and quiet”.

But she is not alone in her deep-sea outings. There are 45 other diving enthusiasts of diverse nationalities who join her on the weekly dives. They are all members of Dubai’s only scuba divers’ club – Desert Sports Diving Club (DSDC) – which recently marked its 35th anniversary.

Divers all. Petra Walker, chairperson of Desert Sports Diving Club, with fellow members of the club which celebrated its 35th anniversary recently.

“We all have different reasons for diving. Some love exploring the wrecks, others love interacting with marine creatures and there are those who like underwater photography. Some love pushing the limits with technical diving,” said Walker, the chairperson of the club.

Wrecks and reefs

Scuba divers carry their own source of breathing gas, usually compressed air, allowing them greater independence and freedom of movement than surface-supplied divers, and longer underwater endurance than breath-hold divers.

Members of the club dive off wrecks and other locales in the UAE and Gulf coastal waters. “In Fujairah, we dive off from Inchcape 1 wreck. We also explore the many beautiful coral reefs in the emirate. In Dubai, our popular spots are wrecks like Jumbo and Mariam Express. We also go to Abu Dhabi and dive from Lion City wreck,” said Walker, who started scuba diving at the age of 18 after being inspired by [French naval officer, explorer] Jacques Cousteau’s underwater adventures.

is the number of members at Desert Sports Diving Club

“We have had some amazing experiences and come across some unique marine species such as leopard sharks, venomous sea snakes, whale sharks, sea slugs and others. There are lots of stunning coral reefs, especially in Fujairah, which take your breath away. Some are close enough to touch as they are in the snorkelling range. Others are as deep as 28 meters below sea level,” she said.

Walker said the members of the club have managed to keep their passion alive despite the high cost scuba diving entails.

“A key milestone for us was getting the Community Development Authority (CDA) licence. At one point we were close to giving up the idea of registering with the CDA as it was a very expensive affair. But the divers wanted the club to be legalised,” said Walker.

Bonding underwater

For some divers, like Irish expat Ruth, scuba diving in the UAE has helped her break barriers with expats of other nationalities. “When people have a common passion, it helps in bringing them closer. We always dive in pairs with each one keeping an eye on the other. That way we also learn to trust one another,” she said.

 “Some love exploring the wrecks, others love interacting with marine creatures and there are those who like underwater photography.”

 - Petra Walker, Desert Sports Diving Club

For Emirati Ali Fikree, scuba diving is more than an adventure. He uses his skill to clear the seabed of trash. “I have come across several areas that are littered with rubbish. I do my best to clean them.”

He said the club has also helped in developing a strong bond with the expat community.

“We always meet before a dive so we can get to know our partner. We help each other with diving techniques. Most of my close friends are from the club,” he said.

Walker said she is looking for more divers with boat licences to join the club. “We need qualified divers with boats so we can make more trips to the waters. Going forward we also want to join hands with other organisations to do surveys of wreck and clean-up sites.”